New ‘subway map’ of Lyme disease pathways identifies potential new treatment targets

Oct. 24, 2023
The model, created by Tufts University researchers, showed that two existing drugs demonstrate potential for more selective therapeutic options.

Scientists at Tufts University School of Medicine have developed a genome-scale metabolic model or “subway map” of key metabolic activities of the bacterium that causes Lyme disease. Using this map, they have successfully identified two compounds that selectively target routes only used by Lyme disease to infect a host. Their research was published October 19 in the journal mSystems

While neither medication is a viable treatment for Lyme because they have numerous side effects, the successful use of the computational “subway map” to predict drug targets and possible existing treatments demonstrates that it may be possible to develop micro-substances that only block Lyme disease while leaving other helpful bacteria untouched. 

The two compounds identified using the “subway map” computational model are an anticancer drug with significant side effects that make it impractical to use in treating Lyme, and an asthma medication taken off the market because of its side effects. Both drugs identified by the model were tested in the lab and found to successfully kill Lyme bacteria—and only Lyme—in culture.

Tufts University release on Newswise